Children can also do the Camino de Santiago
Doing the Camino de Santiago with children may seem, in principle, much more complicated than it actually is. Every year, there are many families who embark on this adventure with their children.
The difficulty or toughness of the Camino de Santiago is perfectly adaptable to the situation and needs of each person, including children. To do this you just have to organize your route properly and be somewhat more forward-thinking to avoid surprises so that the whole family can enjoy the Camino de Santiago.
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In this article, we want to devote it to all those families that each year who decide to go on the Camino de Santiago with their children. For them, we have made this compilation of basic tips to do the Camino de Santiago with the little ones.
Before continuing to read our recommendations, we advise that if you do not know anything about the Camino, consult our guide on practical information for the Camino de Santiago, in it, we give you all the basic information that you need.
Minimum recommended age to do the Camino de Santiago
The minimum age recommended by the associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago is 3 years old because from that age they can enjoy much more of the experience. However, the Camino de Santiago can be done by children of any age.
The smaller the child, the greater the challenge will be the pilgrimage for both parents and children. That does not imply that the Camino de Santiago is not a suitable route to complete with babies. Every year many families with young children are encouraged to pilgrimage to Santiago, carrying the baby on their backs, if they do the Camino de Santiago on foot, or trailers, or even if they do it by bicycle.
Choose a route on the Camino de Santiago apt for children
The Camino Frances is one of the most recommended routes to do with children. This route has the best infrastructure, both for services and accommodation. In addition, being the most popular itinerary on the Camino de Santiago, it is where you are more likely to find other families with children.
The section preferred by families to complete the Camino Frances is the one that runs from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. The last 100 km of the route are the most popular and on them, you will find numerous localities in order to adapt the route to the needs of the little ones. It also has the advantage that children will receive the Compostela (or wrongly called “Compostelana”), which usually makes them very excited.
Other roads to Santiago such as the two Portuguese routes also are highly advisable, since they are the easiest. Of these the stretch from Tui to Santiago de Compostela is the most popular.
But there are plenty of options. If you think that your children can cope with many more complicated itineraries, and you want to consider other options, you can check our post about the itineraries on the Camino de Santiago.
Plan shorter stages
The usual thing is if you do the Camino de Santiago without children is to walk between 20 and 25 kilometres a day or to travel about 50 km if you do it by bicycle. However, if you go to the Camino de Santiago with children you should consider that the young ones cannot keep up with the pace of the adults, so the stages will have to be shorter.
The recommended way to do the Camino de Santiago walking with children is to plan stages of approximately 10 kilometres per day, at most 15 km. That implies that if you are going to make the Camino de Santiago with children you will need twice the time. In the case of cycling, the recommended distance is reduced to 20 or 25 kilometres.
In this article on which section of the Camino to do according to your free days, you can check how many days you need to get to Santiago from the different starting points of each route. The days indicated should be multiplied approximately by two, if you do the Camino de Santiago with children on foot. If you go by bicycle, you can consider that the orientation of days that we give you in the article is correct.
Fill the Camino with stops
Another reason why the stages should be shorter than usual is that if you make the way to Santiago with children, is that they will need a greater number of stops than adults. It is recommended that children rest every hour.
However, in addition to these planned stops, it is normal for children to entertain themselves with anything that captures their attention along the way. At that point, you must be flexible and let them enjoy the route.
A pilgrimage while playing
Take advantage of your stay on the Camino de Santiago to teach them to love nature. Plan games on the route, talk about the animals and plants you find on the route; and let them play with other children who know the Camino de Santiago.
You must think that children will not share the same motivations that you have to pilgrimage to Santiago. For them to play and discover new things is everything; and for this reason, the Camino de Santiago is an excellent choice of destination.
Take care with the heat
Not walking in the sunshine hours is a must! It is also for adults, but if you do the Camino de Santiago with children it is very important to plan every day very well in order not to be under the sun during the warmer hours. Also, you must make sure that children drink water frequently.
Remember that you will be carrying more weight
In this article, we explain what things you will need to take on the Camino de Santiago, but a pilgrimage with children necessarily implies adding additional things for the younger ones. On one hand, children get wet and get much dirtier so you will have to carry spare clothes in your backpack.
Also, the little ones are more sensitive to the cold, so even if you do the Camino de Santiago in summer, you will have to make sure that you include warmer clothing in the backpack, especially if you pass through stretches in higher altitude.
Extra material needed when making a pilgrimage with children
There are also some extra things you may need, depending on the age of the children. Some things that will help the whole family enjoy much more of the experience when doing the Camino de Santiago are:
- If the child is 1 year or less it is essential that you take a baby-carrier backpack on the Camino de Santiago.
- For children under 6 years old, it is advisable to carry a mountain child stroller. This will be helpful when the child is tired and you do not want to stop.
- From the age of 6, children should be able to do the whole tour by themselves, as long as the route does not exceed the recommended distances.
Don’t forget the snacks!
On the other hand, in addition to following the advice on food and nutrition to keep the body in shape during your pilgrimage, you should consider that it is advisable that the children eat something at each stop. So in your backpack, you will have to make sure that you always carry some snacks (nuts, juices, biscuits, fruit, etc.) that give you an extra dose of energy.
A good option if you decide to do the Camino de Santiago with young children is to have a baggage transport service between stages, so you will not have to submit your body to over-exertion. In this article in our blog, we tell you about the advantages of these type of services and how they work.
Look for comfortable accommodation
Pilgrimage with children and sleeping in hostels is not a good idea. On the one hand, many of them do not allow children, and on the other, you will not be able to book in advance to secure the accommodation at the end of each stage.
If you do the Camino de Santiago with children, our advice is that you opt for comfortable accommodation in which the children can rest properly. Hotels and cottages are a good choice because you will have a room with a private bathroom, and they also have outdoor spaces where children can play.
Avoid unforeseen events, rely on the services of an agency
Doing the Camino de Santiago with children implies reducing the number of contingencies as much as possible and pilgrimage in the most comfortable way possible. For that reason, an agency specializing in the Camino de Santiago, like us, can help you.
In Santiago Ways, we have accompanied many families doing the Camino de Santiago. They have only had to worry about enjoying the Camino de Santiago with their children.
We have advised them on the route and stage planning, we have assured them the best accommodation, and we have transferred their luggage between stages. In addition, we have offered a support phone on route and an assistance car, in case of an emergency.
It’s that easy, that’s for sure! No unforeseen circumstances and all well-organized! If you want to know more details about this type of service and its advantages, you can consult our article “Doing the Camino de Santiago with an agency”.
Make the Camino de Santiago a family lifestyle
Doing the Camino de Santiago with children is the perfect excuse to start enjoying quality time with the family long before the pilgrimage begins. Everyone should prepare themselves physically and mentally in order to make their pilgrimage, children too.
Use your trip on the Camino de Santiago to enjoy small family outings in the months previous to your pilgrimage. You can also measure the strength of your children and it will be easier to plan the stages.
Now you know that doing the Camino de Santiago with children is possible and highly recommended. If you’re not sure yet, we’ll leave you with 10 reasons to encourage you to try the experience.
If you are already convinced that the Camino de Santiago will be your next destination for your family vacation, do not hesitate to call us. Enjoy doing the Camino de Santiago with children, but without incidents!